The Arts… More Than Just Aesthetics

Everyone is talking about the economy these days.  Let’s face it, most of us are being impacted, personally, by these difficult times. So when someone asks us to support the arts, the request is often overshadowed by, what some call, the larger issues of consumer spending, unemployment, merchant profits and government revenue. The arts, which contribute to our society in immeasurable ways, are often at risk in our schools and neglected in community budgets during times of economic challenge. We appreciate the arts. We may even revere them. But we leave their support in the hands of “someone else.” Many of us have never stopped to think about how much the arts truly contribute to society. More than just an enjoyable pastime – studying, creating, even experiencing art benefits us in ways we often take for granted.

The arts, being universal languages, have the potential to span racial, cultural, gender, social and economic differences. In doing so, they encourage us to appreciate those differences while embracing the commonality of the human experience. The arts remind us to reflect and consider, behaviors that have become all too rare in our harried, sometimes disconnected lives. All of this generates awareness, and positively influences the way we interact with our world.

And what about the arts in education? In this technological world where we have instant access to amassed information via multiple devices, the arts promote an advisable balance.  Students are encouraged to consider, discover and experiment before presenting inner perceptions to the outside world. The arts, then, become journeys of exploration that lead to self-expression, realization, and the knowledge that achieving a result is a “process.”  Students learn to investigate, analyze, incorporate, trouble-shoot and problem-solve, all practical skills in the larger world. Many of those same students pursue careers in creative businesses.

Some of you will read this and argue that the above benefits are idealistic or trivial when compared to more significant economic issues. Just for you, then, I’ll get down to the brass tax, the dollars and cents. The bottom line is the arts contribute to the economy… significantly. In Good For The Soul… Good For The Economy, a recent blog written by ArtsWestchester’s CEO, Janet Langsam, it’s reported that “Nationally, nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating $22.3 billion in government revenue.”  The arts, therefore, are a significant contributor to our economic success. But, please, don’t take my word for it. I encourage you to read the report, “The Arts And Economic Prosperity in Westchester County, NY” for yourself. In it, you’ll find statistics regarding the impact of arts on the economy, right here in Westchester, NY.

There are countless ways to support the arts. Monetary donations are, of course, always welcome. But what if this economy is getting in your way? Consider donating your time or professional services to your local theater group or art guild. Theater companies can always use make-up artists and supplies, hair dressers, program and advertisement printing, set painters and building supplies, and so much more. By providing your time or business expertise you save arts organizations money, which can be allocated elsewhere. Most arts organizations are so appreciative that they reciprocate, acknowledging donors in show programs, gallery invitations, etc.  The result is a symbiotic relationship. Patronage, of course, is one of the best ways to ensure the survival of the arts. When you are making plans for an evening out, why not consider attending an arts event? And, lastly, communicate with your school superintendents, community representatives and legislators that the arts are important to our society… and our economy.

8 thoughts on “The Arts… More Than Just Aesthetics

  1. jen hoffman

    Excellent explanation about why the arts are important. Thank you for not saying “The arts are important” without explaining clearly why. I see that much too often. Thorough and well-stated. Thanks! I will use pieces of this for my own arts organization if I have your permission.

    1. lmdesanto Post author

      Absolutely, Jen. Feel free to use pieces and/or quote me for your organization, which I’d love to hear more about! One of the things I love about arts organizations, is their willingness to share information and resources, to cooperate with one another. If corporations did the same, imagine what the world would be like!

  2. Larry Garcia

    You’re right on the mark for the need of more volunteers in the arts. For 15 years I donated my time and knowledge to one of Westchester’s premier not-for-profit community theater groups including eight years as the organization’s president. In that time I probably served in every backstage function imaginable from tickets sales, publicity and program designer to set design, technical director and producer. I was even given the opportunity to direct. Unfortunately a shortage of volunteers led to burn-out; more and more we were forced to pay “professionals” to handle functions formerly handled volunteers. Rising expenses due to salaries, increased rental fees and insurance costs made it virtually impossible to breakeven and maintain seed money for the next production.

  3. Jennifer Heintzman

    I’m not sure I could live a sane and balanced life without my regular dose of arts and culture. Lucky for me music, theatre and art were highly valued in my home growing up, and I’ve tried to expose my children to the same things in their lives. The arts offer, among other things, a connection to the deeper truths about what it means to be human, and that feeds my heart and soul immeasurably. I have long tried to communicate the importance and value of supporting and encouraging the arts in our community, and in our education system, and of course, its much easier to have those conversations in good times than in bad, when people are afraid and becoming minimalists in order to find security economically. Sadly, the arts could lessen our fears in times of troubles, however, austerity has been drummed into us as he way to save ourselves!! The human spirit will triumph, however, and people will spontaneously begin to seek more arts and culture in their lives. They will also come together to develop creative events to enjoy themselves and offer to others… I believe it will happen. I believe it is cyclical and times will change. Can we in the interim market the whole notion that the arts create jobs and generate revenue? You bet. I don’t think I ever realized this fact, so I’m grateful to have it pointed out here Lisa. Nicely done.

    1. lmdesanto Post author

      I recall reading that despite the economic hardships of the Great Depression, millions of Americans escaped, weekly, to their local movie theaters. More than just escapism, movie-goers flocked to theaters to be entertained, but also to see films about the Depression that offered alternate views, motivation and encouragement. Going to the movies was, in some ways, an act of pride. So many Americans struggled with their newfound poverty that the simple act of going to a theater and sitting among friends reminded them of their humanity. One could argue that film, a popular art form, was a key element in carrying Americans through that difficult time – reinforcing your idea that the arts can “lessen our fears in times of troubles.”

  4. Susan

    Well said. The arts give so much more than most people realize. Five years ago, as my son graduated high school and was about to enter college, I was in knots. Though he made very good grades, and is a very intelligent, talented and responsible young man, he had no passion for school whatsoever. Just not his thing. The anxiety of how he (we) were going to make it through four years of college weighed heavily on all of us, especially since he did not pass his initial audition to be accepted into the music program. Two years and many unenthusiastic credits later, he made it in, and now, we wonder if he’ll ever leave! Pursuing the arts in some way, shape or form is his ultimate career goal, and while the limited opportunities that will likely be available for him scare me, what he is learning, how he is growing, the appreciation he now has for all forms of music and art, and most of all, the confidence building within him, is an education and experience well worth the investment.

  5. Val

    “The arts, being universal languages, have the potential to span racial, cultural, gender, social and economic differences. In doing so, they encourage us to appreciate those differences while embracing the commonality of the human experience.”

    Well-said and probably — for me — the most moving part of your message. We have a long way to go to achieve widespread acceptance of others but without the arts, we would be even further behind. May we continue to embrace and celebrate our diversity and cultivate more love for each other via the arts! Wonderful blog. Thank you!

  6. Pingback: Valerie J. Dimond

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